The Easy Choice For Future Agribusiness Leaders
By Megan Townsend, Purdue University Center for Food and Agricultural Business
Kacy Perry is excited. Some would even go as far as to say she's downright fired up. And, it's about something a little bit surprising — her online graduate school program.
"My experience so far has been phenomenal," says Kacy, a second-year student in the MS-MBA in Food and Agribusiness Management. “It’s just been a beautiful mix of learning more about the industry that I love and I’m committed to while still sharpening my business skills through the program.“
Knowledge beyond the bookstore
Offered through a partnership between Purdue University and Indiana University (IU), the MS-MBA program allows students to earn a Master of Science (MS) in agricultural economics from Purdue and a Master in Business Administration (MBA) from IU in just over two years. Each class, or cohort, consists of about 25 to 30 agribusiness professionals who maintain full-time jobs while completing the program’s online courses and five on–campus sessions.
"This program involves much more than buying books and following a syllabus," says Purdue Professor Allan Gray, the program's director. "We are building the next generation of top agribusiness leaders. It's a lot of responsibility, and we want each student to succeed."
Gray knows that the program is effective every time he hears about a current student or graduate getting a promotion, starting their own business or taking on more responsibility at a new firm. He says the curriculum challenges students to apply what they gain in the classroom,"making them immediately more attractive in the job marketplace."
Taking class to work
It's apparent to Kacy, a marketing manager for Monsanto's Channel seed brand, how much the MS-MBA faculty want students to understand and apply the information they are learning in the classroom.
"I feel like they're challenging, and I'm able to learn so much," she says. "I've found ways to immediately use what I've learned in my job to add value, so it doesn't feel like busy work or just checking a box."
Kacy has used concepts from quantitative methods to evaluate brand health surveys and metrics. She has also developed a risk analysis model that helped her work team explore a process they were undergoing. Kacy, along with the rest of her cohort, will complete a capstone project in which they identify and analyze a current opportunity or challenge within their company - further reinforcing classroom application.
"It's already allowed me to provide more value in my job," Kacy says. "It has opened me up to understanding more, above and beyond, what I'm currently doing. I think that will only help me as I progress in my career."
Students are the customer
Kacy applied for the MS-MBA program at about the same time that many of her friends were submitting applications to other business schools. After comparing experiences with her friends, she discovered that the MS-MBA program, which maintains a 99 percent graduation rate, has a much more customer-service-oriented approach.
"They answered any questions that I had, but they never shied away from clearly stating the demands and expectations of the program and the quality of the program," she explains. "At the same time, they were very helpful because it was obvious that they wanted me to succeed. And that's a good feeling -- when you're going into a program where the people want you to succeed."
Classmates who get it
MS-MBA classes begin each August with a one-week residency at IU's campus in Bloomington, Indiana. Kacy remembers everyone being a little nervous and unsure the first couple of days at IU, but by the end of the week "it was amazing how well everyone had gotten to know each other."
She also recalls being pleasantly surprised at how much she learned about agriculture. Growing up on a farm in Illinois, Kacy's industry exposure had been exclusively to seed and row crops, but the first residency broadened her knowledge to include sectors such as livestock marketing, agribusiness financial planning, equipment manufacturing and more. The MS-MBA's application process ensures that each cohort includes a diverse set of students. They vary in age, industry background, experience and management level to almost guarantee networking across the industry occurs throughout their time together.
MS-MBA students complete five, one-week residencies - two at Purdue, two at IU and one at an international location. Although a majority of coursework is completed online, Kacy says she is constantly talking with her classmates, either texting or emailing.
"It's nice that because everyone in this program is working full time, they completely understand being busy and having a lot of demands on your time," she explains. "Everyone tries to be extremely efficient, but still work really hard. Because we're all in the same situation, it just removes a lot of the normal hassles, stress and unnecessary grief that might come with some of the other master's programs out there."
With so many graduate school programs available - online, traditional, weekend, blended -it can be overwhelming for agribusiness professionals to make a choice. But, according to Kacy, there is really only one option to get excited about - the MS-MBA in Food and Agribusiness Management from Purdue and IU.
Find out more about the MS-MBA program or apply online at http://agribusiness.purdue.edu/degrees.